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See/download the pre-publication open access versions below.
SPECIAL ISSUE: MORAL HORIZONS OF LAND AND PLACE
(Guest Editors: Victoria Stead and Michèle Dominy)
- Victoria Stead and Michèle Dominy: Moral Horizons of Land and Place
- Victoria Stead: History as Resource: Moral Reckonings with Place and with the Postwar Past in Oro Province, PNG
- Patrick Guinness: The Unbounded Space and Moral Transgression: Capitalist Expansion in West New Britain
- Ute Eickelkamp: Emplacing Christ: An Indigenous Australian Ethics of Placemaking Across Borders
- Siad Darwish: Balad El-Ziblé (Country of Rubbish): Moral Geographies of Waste in Post-Revolutionary Tunisia
- Yuka Suzuki: The Good Farmer: Morality, Expertise, and the Depoliticisation of Whiteness in Zimbabwe
- Michèle D. Dominy: Settler Postcolonial Ecologies and Native Species Regeneration on Banks Peninsula, New Zealand
SPIRITS OF UNCERTAINTY: MORAL HORIZONS OF LAND AND PLACE
Guest Editors: Victoria Stead and Michèle Dominy
Victoria Stead and Michèle Dominy
Alfred Deakin Institute, Deakin University
Anthropology, Bard College
Moral Horizons of Land and Place
A recent ‘moral turn’ in anthropology has cast new light on morality as a subject of ethnographic inquiry, and on the making of moral meaning and judgment. This article, and the special issue it prefaces, contribute to this emergent literature through foregrounding and examining the moral dimensions of land and place. Taking up Didier Fassin’s injunction for a critical moral anthropology—rather than an anthropology of morality—we look to land and place as groundings for moral challenges and practices that are nevertheless not place-bound. A critical moral anthropology of land and place should be directed, we argue, to the interplay of mobility and emplacement, to the dynamics of landscape and ‘dwelling’, and to the multiplicities of expectation and meaning that surround the making and exploitation of resources. In contexts of global and local change, land and place offer productive grounds from which to consider the moral horizons—both spatial and temporal—of our world and our discipline.
Alfred Deakin Institute, Deakin University
History as Resource: Moral Reckonings with Place and with the Postwar Past in Oro Province, PNG
Located in Oro Province, Papua New Guinea, Higaturu Station is a place marked by multiple intersections of violence. Originally established as an Australian colonial headquarters, in 1943 it was the site of execution of 21 local Orokaiva men convicted—by the Australian administration—of treason during the Second World War. Eight years after the executions, the nearby Mount Lamington volcano erupted, killing thousands and devastating Higaturu. Today the place remains uninhabited but laden with memory and meaning, a site of ambivalent moral reckonings both with the colonial past and with the postcolonial present. These moral reckonings in turn intersect with peoples’ experiences of, and hopes for, ‘development’. In Oro Province, history is becoming a resource—not unlike gold, or the oil palm plantations that extend across the landscape—which might attract outsiders, and with them forms of wealth and possibilities for realising the good life. Accordingly, Higaturu landowners work to attract outsiders to the site of the eruption and the hangings. At the same time, however, they worry that the outsiders they attract—including anthropologists—will exploit and profit from their history in the ways that so many outsiders have profited from the Province’s other resources. Commercial considerations inform these hopes and worries, but the mobilisation of history-as-resource also speaks to other concerns, including about the relationships of insiders and outsiders across time, and the proper attributions of guilt, responsibility and entitlement within colonial and postcolonial landscapes of remembrance.
ANU Research School of Humanities and the Arts, School of Archaeology and Anthropology
The Unbounded Space and Moral Transgression: Capitalist Expansion in West New Britain
Capitalist transformations in West New Britain Province, Papua New Guinea, have focused on setting boundaries on land and social relations as an efficient way to generate productive relations. But for the Maututu around Bialla town where the palm oil industry has been established the perception of productivity rests not on establishing boundaries but on exploring horizons. Recent dramatic changes to the economy and demography of this area have introduced moral conflict into Maututu endeavours to generate wellbeing. Maututu have responded to these conflicts in ways that continue to bring their indigenous morality to bear on the moral strategies pursued by state and capitalist forces.
School for Social and Political Sciences, The University of Sydney
Emplacing Christ: An Indigenous Australian Ethics of Placemaking Across Borders
Travelling from my old heimat, Germany, I joined in September 2015 a group of Anangu Pitjantjatjara Bible translators on a two-week long pilgrimage to the Holy Land. This journey offered further probing into Anangu attachments to place that, until then, I had only known through ethnographic research in their desert homelands in northern South Australia. In the present article I explore how and why the Anangu Christians forged links with biblically inscribed places to which they had no ancestral ties. What they did bring is a deep-seated sense of emotional connection with Jesus abiding in heaven, and here the pilgrimage was a chance to anchor this relationship in his land—to emplace Christ. Notable in this process of shifting the presence of Jesus from heaven to earth was the pilgrims’ moral concern to keep separate the emplaced stories of their ancestral lands on one hand, and the grounded narratives of the Christian Scriptures on the other. In Jonathan Mair and Nicholas Evans’ terms, their approach was one of ‘incommensuration’, a strategy to avoid moral conflict by refusing to make comparisons between religious traditions. My article may thus be read as an ethnographic contribution towards the understanding of an Australian Indigenous ethics of placemaking across borders.
Department of Anthropology, Rutgers University
Balad El-Ziblé (Country of Rubbish): Moral Geographies of Waste in Post-Revolutionary Tunisia
Waste sullies, physically and morally, polluting people and places, and defining or altering their position within social and spatial hierarchies. Given this polluting quality and the moral charge of the idiom of pollution, waste and its distribution are indicative of how places are imbued with moral judgment and at the same time waste illustrates how places themselves can become morally polluting. In the context of a waste crisis that followed the Tunisian Revolution of 2011, it is argued here that an attention to waste as material and symbolic category demonstrates the recursive relationship between materials, people, their thoughts and actions, in the moralisation of place. Examining this waste crisis in terms of a Tunisian moral geography of waste, which was established under colonialism and labels certain people and places as clean and dirty, reveals the dynamic and historically-contingent nature of moral spaces and depicts them as sites for socio-spatial struggles that in themselves illuminate the revolution in novel ways. Finally, it is concluded that the polluting quality of waste spilled over the boundaries of Tunisia’s moral geography to morally sully the whole time period and political process of Tunisia’s transition.
Anthropology, Bard College
The Good Farmer: Morality, Expertise, and the Depoliticisation of Whiteness in Zimbabwe
In Zimbabwe, land has always been a visible index of racial domination and oppression. Following independence in 1980, the redistribution of white property to black farmers emerged as one of the most contentious battlegrounds for refiguring citizenship and nationhood. This article explores how white farmers in a small community in western Zimbabwe fought to establish claims to belonging as they faced the threat of imminent land reform at the turn of the millennium. Drawing upon Tania Li’s concept of articulation (2000), I suggest that farmers constructed themselves both as moral subjects who cared for the environment, and skilled subjects with the technical know-how to safeguard and maximise the country’s resources. In the absence of claims to indigeneity, farmers attempted to offset their own compromised morality by invoking the language of expertise. By examining this intersection between morality and expertise, I argue that white farmers in Zimbabwe brought together logics typically imagined to be distinct as a strategy to claim moral belonging while obscuring the historical and political factors that threatened to void those same claims.
Michèle D. Dominy
Anthropology, Bard College
Settler Postcolonial Ecologies and Native Species Regeneration on Banks Peninsula, New Zealand
The 2050 Ecological Vision for Banks Peninsula, New Zealand is ‘to create an environment in which the community values, protects and cares for the biodiversity, landscape and special character of Banks Peninsula’. Its aspirational goals point to the peninsula conservation trust’s vision for success on the moral horizons of land and place. These horizons stretch visually from the volcanic crater ridgelines to the outer coastal bays and the sea beyond. Temporally they span one hundred and seventy-five years of cultural encounters of peoples and biota, and reveal community-based strategies designed to support thriving biodiversity on land that has been used primarily for production. This article draws on event, textual and interview data as well as fieldwork conducted in 2015 during the 175th anniversary of organised European settlement. Settler pasts and presents are negotiated in natural heritage preservation through the restoration of native flora and fauna in natural areas and protected connectivity corridors. A settler postcolonial ecology for these hill country lands is committed to the simultaneous conservation of biological and cultural diversity in which indigenous flora and fauna, landscapes and people, are irreversibly hybridised, and endemic species become constitutive of a postcolonial national identity in Aotearoa New Zealand.